Sales tax vote brings library-community center one step closer

The Moorhead Library has been in the red zone among city facilities needing attention since 2017. (Photo/Nancy Hanson)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The Moorhead City Council voted unanimously Monday to authorize a city-wide vote in November that would fund construction of a new public library and community center downtown.

Proposed by a task force headed by Lisa Borgen, the vote on a half-cent local-option sales tax was authorized by the 2021 Minnesota Legislature. This week’s decision marks the second time a local sales tax has been sent to the voters. In 2016, Clay County voters approved a similar countywide tax that funded construction of the new jail. That tax is due to end in 2027.

If voters approve the new half-cent library sales tax, it will raise the local level (including Minnesota’s 6.876% and Clay County’s 0.5%) to 7.875% — marginally higher than the 7.5% collected in Fargo and West Fargo. The tax would cover the same goods and services Minnesota now taxes, which – unlike North Dakota – does not include clothing.

Lisa Borgen, chair of the 12-member library task force appointed by Mayor Shelly Carlson last September, said the new downtown library would replace the 1960s-era building at 118 Fifth St. S., which is in need of about a million dollars’ worth of repairs in coming years. The new facility would include both more space for traditional library functions, including access to computers and the internet, and larger quarters dedicated to youth activities, educational events and community meetings.

With the vote now on the calendar, library staff and volunteers are turning their attention to seeking Moorhead residents’ input on programs and facilities they’d like to see in the new facility and what they want it to look like. One thing is certain: “It will be an all-inclusive place where all are welcome,” Borgen promised.

The task force, she said, weighed five city-owned properties as possible locations. The Center Mall site downtown, centrally located and easily accessed via public transportation, was their recommendation. Some $31 million is expected to be raised to fund the project through the sales tax, grants, donations and other sources.

Citing the Bluestem Amphitheater, walking and biking tails along the river, Miracle Field and new playgrounds around the city, Borgen said, “This could be the next great experience in Moorhead.”

Other members of the library task force are Cani Adan, Greta Almlie, Gavin Feil, Sajid Ghauri, Doug Greenley, James Hand, Megan Krueger, Liz Lynch, Karla Wolford, Danielle Wright and Nick Woodard.

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